Tag Archives: Birmingham Literature Festival

September Review

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This month seems to have disappeared in a flash, looking at events listings it is no wonder. The thing I have been coming to terms with this month is missing events either because of clashing dates or lack of energy/needing some gaps in my schedule. It is something every artist has to overcome at some point, just wishing there was a fast cure. If I am really busy I tend not to look at the events calendars on social media as I know they will show places I want to be. Ignorance is bliss and all that.

Writing diary My 2014 Poetry Diary

The desk In Tray is filled with admin tasks I need to take a firm hold over, the house needs sorting out (still), the diary is filling up and my weekly schedule is brimming. The mortgage payments are coming from savings as there is no paid work this early in the term, I have been lucky in recent years to have had work by now. My agent is on secondment, so I keep calling the office in vague hope… it will come but probably when I am at Swindon Poetry Festival. Perhaps it is a godsend as there is no way I could manage the poetry workload and a day job!

I have decided not to worry, repeat the mantra every freelancer knows, ‘money will come’ and just get stuck into my projects and plans.

creative commons park Howell Storytelling1Creative Commons © 2015

This month planning meetings were initiated in Warwick & Rugby for my work with Warwickshire Libraries – Reader in Residence through WMRN. I was so excited when Roz Goddard approached me to apply in the summer. I spent a long time on the application and just kept my fingers crossed for a successful bid. I follow in some mighty footsteps created by Readers in Residence: Jean Atkin, Andy Killeen (2014) and Deborah Alma (2015).

Since August I have completed hours of research and two planning meetings with library staff in Warwick and Rugby. Now I have the schedule and an idea of what is required for my residency which will officially start in November and run until March.

 

A New Design (5)

I also facilitated my first adult workshops in over 12 years. Workshops are something I have wanted to get back into for a long time. I just needed the springboard and it takes years to construct a new one! It was an absolute delight and feedback has been positive. I started planning my WPL workshops back in June and met up with the venues Event Manager back in July. The Sculpture Trail (which was the base stimuli for my Poetry Workshop) arrived on site late August and was open to the public on the 25th August. I went to the grand opening at the Jinney Ring and took plenty of notes and some photos. I then busily planned the workshop and tested the material out on myself.

This month I was contacted by several people for commissioned work and booked performances.

Week 1:

There were only 3 days in this week. I had hoped to make it across to Birmingham for Case Bailey’s Book Launch (he crowd funded this venture earlier in the year) and also to get back to Walsall for ‘Yes We Cant’* to see Gerry Potter who I discovered for the first time in January at Wolverhampton Arts Festival. Neither plan worked as an eventful life weekend meant I couldn’t manage the travel.

yes we cant gerry potter

*as in brick.

Week 2:

Term started back (without me) but I started back the same day. I added a second date to the Jinney Ring Poetry Workshops, tickets for the first one SOLD OUT by the end of August.

I started to organise INKSPILL (my online writing retreat) hosted on this blog for FREE in October.

I had my first WMRN Reader in Residence meeting in Warwick with a team of Librarians to plan what it might look like.

I went back across to Coventry in the evening for a night at the Inspire Cafe and Antony Owen’s book launch of The Nagasaki Elder.

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The following morning I did my first talk as a Poet. This was part of the Second Friday Story Series facilitated by Sue Johnson at Evesham Library. This opportunity was booked back in July and it was a good morning. There are now more plans afoot for a Evesham Festival of Words Fringe Event. The other speakers were Tom Bryson, a local Crime Writer and Ashleigh Jayes.

I spent the past few weeks organising a Poetry Event for the Salt Festival. A group of poets joined me at Canal Side Studios in the Square to perform poems. This year the festival moved location to Vine’s Park, the rain was torrential and there was even a thunderstorm, the whole event was set up with foot passers in mind and there weren’t many there – however, some stayed for a while and a few poets came to watch/support us. We all had fun.

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Week 3:

Started with food poisoning! I am not used to feeling ill now I no longer work a stressful 80 hour week. Staying under a blanket and feeling sorry for myself, watching trashy TV and not reaching my desk was quite hard. I also missed Licensed to Rhyme and a plethora of poets I hadn’t seen in ages.

I was approached to be part of a new commission. A current collaboration between a composer and a visual artist. how could I resist? It may also lead to more workshop work, which would be superb.

Credo Liz Johnson © 2017

I met with the Chair of the International Twin Town Committee to discuss my European Poetry Project. It is wonderful to have these WPL ideas met with so much enthusiasm.

I had my third radio slot on BBC Hereford & Worcester with Tammy Gooding and read my new hometown poem ‘Not on the High Street’.

In the evening, I headlined a split set at Permission to Speak, back in it’s home venue with shiny new owners and a gorgeous new stage. Claptrap is a perfect venue for all us performers. It was lovely to be reunited with everyone.

SpeakEasy

Three things in one day meant I was certainly ready to sleep. The following day I took more bookings and in the evening I headlined as WPL at SpeakEasy. It truly was a night of passion, emotion and brilliant performers. It was noted that all four Flash Fiction Slam Champions were in the same room at the same time! It was great to see Andrew Owens again. I have missed him loads, as has everybody else. Kieran Davis gifted me a belated congratulations present – a book I cannot wait to get stuck into!

I spent Friday missing submission deadlines, planning and writing.

WWM

The weekend saw the start of a new term and a new group for Spark Young Writers – Writing West Midlands in Worcester at The Hive. Emails sent to workshop participants and last minute flapping (packing) for the Sculpture Trail Workshop.

Week 4: 

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I facilitated my first adult workshop in 12 years at the Jinney Ring Craft Centre – Sculpture & Poetry Workshop, it was a great success and now I wait in anticipation of finished poems which we plan to exhibit on site at the restaurant in November.

I researched and wrote some WW1 poetry for a commission, I have been working away on these since August, mainly reading and research. Finally the words presented themselves and I managed to write three poems for this project.

I spent time with the Contour submission pile. Contour is an online digital magazine for my tenure as Worcestershire Poet Laureate. The first issue (out next month) deals with PLACE as a theme, Worcestershire to be exact.

Copy of Food Magazine Flyer Template (2)

I had my 2nd WMRN Reader-in-Residence meeting and the first one on site at Rugby Art Gallery, Museum & Library. It was a productive meeting and now I have my schedule and remit finalised for this role. I am currently spending hours at the desk researching and preparing, I will write a Guest Blog soon and reblog it here on AWF and then I start officially at the Library in November. This residency runs until March 2018 and is something I am very much looking forward to.

I finished writing poetry for Credo – Creative Synergy – the project/performance I was asked to contribute poetry to at the end of the month.

The ‘Adam Speaks’ NT project (which completes on the 25th November) took another twist and I am busy writing for that.

We had a fabulous Poetry Society Stanza meeting and I finished the week with a Room 204 Performance event at Edmunds Brewhouse, Birmingham. A catch up with family and a reunion with college friends.

Week 5:

Mr G and I went to see the Black Angels. A much anticipated gig, the tickets have been pinned to the fridge for months. It has been years since we last saw them.

Lit Allsorts BLF

I performed as part of a pre-event for Birmingham Literature Festival at Waterstones. Literary Allsorts – A Room 204 showcase.

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Then it was Christmas… I mean National Poetry Day. I blogged a lot, wrote some poems in the local library and went to support Voices of 1919.

The performance of this book by actors was moving and superb.

I performed in Credo-Creative Synergy, an event Liz Johnson asked me to be part of earlier this month back at Elmslie House, Malvern the night after Voices of 1919. This was an incredible project to become part of and I am grateful to Liz for approaching me to be involved. A blog post is owed.

I travelled down to London for Free Verse the Poetry Book Fair where I performed alongside Stephen Daniels in a V. Press Reading. I have been promising myself a trip to this book fair for a few years now, so to get down there and have an opportunity to perform was a double bonus. I had a fantastic day and absorbed an incredible amount of performances, readings and books!

 

 

 

 

Birmingham Literature Festival 2015

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This is the 17th year for Birmingham Literature Festival organised by Jonathan Davidson Director of Writing West Midlands.

It was the first literature festival (apart from Hays) that I attended in 2013 and I practically spent the whole season in the library at events. Last year I was fortunate enough to be chosen as 1 of 4 poets who were commissioned by Naked Lungs to write and perform at the festival. This year, I booked my tickets as soon as they were available, due to other performance commitments I was unable to manage many events this year.

Tickets are still available and the festival runs until 17th October.

Short and Sweet: Short Fiction Salon

This was an event hosted by fiction writer and Heart Breakfast presenter Rachel New, Short & Sweet allows you to dip your toe into the water of live literature, and enjoy readings we select for you – including a story from Rachel herself written especially for this event.

Rachel New is a veteran of short fiction challenges – having survived two unusual residencies at Birmingham Literature Festivals past – Ten Day Sentence in 2013 and One Page Wonders in 2014. Both these experiences saw Rachel writing against the clock, responding to prompts from the wider festival audience and producing huge volumes of creative fiction. Rachel brings this expertise, as well as her ongoing PhD studies in creative writing, to the Short & Sweet arena for performances and discussion.

© 2015 Writing West Midlands

It was a great event and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the stories. The writers were;

Liam Brown

William Gallagher (who recited his whole story from memory)

Lisa Blower

Pauls Bankovskis guest of BLF 15

Jan Watts

Garrie Fletcher

& Rachel New

It is my pleasure to know some of these writers and I loved discovering stories from voices and pens I haven’t  come across too.

BLFest

Rita Dove and Guests

We are delighted to welcome Rita Dove, the former U.S. Poet Laureate and a Pulitzer Prize winner, to give a rare poetry reading in the UK. A mesmerising performer, Rita Dove’s work covers a range of subjects, each of them addressed with wit and verve.

Her most recent poetry collections are Sonata Mulattica and American Smooth. She is editor of the Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry and is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia. Among her honours are the 1996 National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton and the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama, making her the only poet to ever receive both medals.

As a prelude to Rita Dove’s reading, we present three short poetry performances. Jo Bell, Canal Laureate, will be reading from her eagerly awaited new collection, Kith. She will be joined by Birmingham Young Poet Laureate 2014-15, Serena Arthur and by Oliver Sullivan, a young performer from the region who was runner up in this year’s Poetry by Heart Competition. 

Sponsored by the University of Birmingham.

© 2015 Writing West Midlands

This event was a real treat, it was a delight to listen to Rita Dove and discover her poetry. Jo Bell opened the evening with a great set and rapport with the audience. Serena Arthur provided us with a confident performance of her poems, including one of the poems she won the Young Poet Laureate with and as for Oliver Sullivan, such talent remembering classical poetry.

I was already on a high after NPD events the evening before and my night in Birmingham topped up my poetry fuel nicely.

I am a little sad that I cannot attend as much as the festival as I would have liked this year. I have had to cancel one of the tickets as I have been asked to cover as an Assistant Writer for Writing West Midlands on the same day.

WWM PINK

RELATED LINKS

http://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/season/birmingham-literature-festival

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/birmingham-literature-festival-2015-whats-9663804

http://visitbirmingham.com/what-to-do/festivals-events/art-photography-culture/birmingham-literature-festival/

http://www.writingwestmidlands.org/event/birmingham-literature-festival-2015/

‘Gas Street Basin’ Published: Birmingham Book Club – Birmingham Bound Anthology

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Back in April I made a submission to this anthology – Birmingham Bound – they had so much interest that they emailed us all to tell us that the results would be announced next month, which is now this month!

I am delighted to say that my poem ‘Gas Street Basin’, based on part of the canal network (more waterways than Venice) was originally written for a performance commission I had at Birmingham Literature Festival last year, organised by Naked Lungs.

BLFest I am so glad to be included in this anthology, I feel like it is a minute token for a city that has given me so much poetry – but a little thank you to our wonderful 2nd City, a place I am proud to suggest is almost home – Midlands based at least!

2014 Review of the Year

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fs fireworks This is also the 1100 post rather excitingly!

It has been a roller coaster year and I have loved every minute. I am already busy working on projects for 2015 and plan to update you all early in January.

2014 has been an amazing year, my first full year in my poetry skin (returning to this form of writing after a 15 year gap), I performed at Literary Festivals (Wenlock, Worcester, Stratford & Birmingham), finally got to the Ledbury Festival, was published in poetry journals & print anthologies, entered a few poetry competitions, was part of a team of local writers who featured in the Restless Bones Anthology to raise funds for the Born Free Foundation. I continued to work for Writing West Midlands, was offered a one to one mentoring role from WWM and given the opportunity for some further training in Arts Mark awards, had my poetry display in the library, on the Wenlock Poetry Trail, at Acton Scott Farm, was commissioned to write poetry for a Festival performance, had several main sets (15mins+) performances, wrote lots and got as involved as much as time enabled in Jo Bell’s wonderful 52 project. What I also did in January was promote 52 to local poets, some of whom are now taking on major roles in the continuation of this project.

Here’s a summary of all the wondrous parts of my writing year;

PROJECTS

  • Participated in the Mindful Stones project for a month,
  • was invited to 52 by Jo Bell, a project lasting the whole of the year,
  • The Fourth Wall (one of my original Dance poems) was displayed by the Arts Network in a local Library for a month.
  • Nominated AWF as a blog following the NAPOWRIMO challenge and participated for my 2nd year running, although due to commitments performing on the road kept me away from managing the whole of National Poetry Writing Month.
  • What’s the Agenda – A weekend Arts Festival at the MAC – Midlands Arts Centre – submitted work to Hayley Frances. My Haiku poetry became part of her installation on Hikikomori. A very powerful piece.
  • I hoped to be involved in a Brainfruit production with Roy Hutchins as part of his Poetry Army, unfortunately due to a lack of sales this event was cancelled. I hope to work with Roy in the future.
  • I was asked to perform on The Quiet Compere Tour next year, funded by the Arts Council this is a paid gig.

PERFORMANCES & EVENTS

106 performances including in late Spring some collaboration with Tim Scarborough on a set of poetry and music, opening events for galleries, sets at Festivals, performing on a narrow boat, Worcester Music Festival, 100,000 Poets for Change and my first ever Poetry Slam.

AWF hosted INKSPILL, an online writing retreat for the 2nd time, this year it was supported by guest writers; Charlie Jordan, William Gallagher & Heather Wastie.

 

WATCH & LEARN – SHOWS AND WORKSHOPS

Cat Weatherill Hungry Hearts

The Quiet Compere Tour Birmingham – Sarah Dixon

The Hive joint venture between Worcester LitFest and Ledbury Poetry Festival;

Angela France, Martin Malone

Wenlock Poetry Festival

Poetry Workshop with Jean Atkin at Acton Scott Farm

Carol Ann Duffy – National Poet Laureate in a joint venture between Ledbury Poetry festival & WLF

The Tea Project – Tara and Lynsey – MAC Arts Centre

Antony Owen & Joseph Horgan- Book Launch at the Inspire Bar, Coventry

Jo Bell and 52 – Picnic/ Performance Event Stratford-Upon-Avon Poetry Festival

Poetry Party – my first one

Benches – Jan Watts Book Launch / Off the Page Event

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family – Ben Norris at the MAC.

Wolverley Village Tea Shop – Pop Up Poetry Event organised by Sue Wood and featuring Worcester Lit Fest poets and others.

Elvis McGonagall at The Hive, Worcester, an event organised by the Worcester Lit Fest.

Poetry Workshop – National Poetry Day – Remember – Jan Watts and Cathy Crossley

Birmingham Poet Laureate Announcement and other Birmingham Literature Festival events including; Radio 4 Poetry Please with Roger McGough, With Great Pleasure, also recorded for BBC Radio 4, Rich McMahon & Tell Me on a Sunday, with Cat Weatherill.

Writing West Midlands Writing Meeting

David Calcutt – Wild Fire – Writing Workshop in Community Gardens, 2nd workshop with a group poem that will become part of the Garden.

Angela France – Poetry Workshop

Workshop with Emma Purshouse, Bilston Art Gallery, Craft & Conflict

Book Launch – The Failed Idealist’s Guide to the Tatty Truth By Fergus McGonigal

Stanza meetings and writing for Hanbury Hall via the Arts Network

WWM – Writing West Midlands – Young Writing- where I started my first of three 1 to 1 Mentoring sessions.

 

WRITING LIFE

Joined the Arts Network and several online subscriptions.

Successful application for Assistant Writers Role with WWM Writing West Midlands, working with young writers and Ian MacLeod. I also covered as an assistant writer in Jean Atkin’s group.

Applied to be involved in a commission with Naked Lungs, I was later successfully picked for the final collaboration.

Celebrated ONE YEAR A POET a celebration of my first year back in the world of poetry

 

PUBLISHED

Kidderminster Creatives Website –

Poem on the Wenlock Poetry Trail (as part of the Poetry Festival) 1 of 23 poems displayed in local shops in the town.

Shops website published

Two poems accepted for Born Free Poetry Anthology – Restless Bones. Elaine Christie watched a performance f my 52 poems a few months later and asked for another two poems, I am delighted to have 4 poems in this wonderful collection.

Hayley Frances asked for Haikus for a new community project taking place as a weekend festival at the MAC (Midland Arts Centre) I sent quite a few and had them used in her Hikikomori installation at the end of the month, which I was lucky enough to see.

I sent some poetry to Acton Scott Farm, Jean Atkin was the poet in residence and had The Half and Half Pig chosen for the Poetry Fence.

Clench Published by Hark Magazine, July Issue.

I also worked on an epic submission for Offa’s Press, which was rejected, but I have the pleasure of knowing one of the new poets that was taken on.

Fallacy (a 52 poem) published in the GBWO – Great British Write Off.

The Cart – Published online – Poetry on The Farm Website

‘Falling into Line’, written especially for the Boy/Girl Issue Published by HCE

Picasso of Dance (a 52 poem) published in Remember Poetry Anthology by Paragram

 

LOOK OUT for exciting Daniel Sluman posts (he proposed over Christmas) so look forward to an excited Daniel Sluman too!

Review of October

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The end of last month was so crazy busy I am only just tying up loose blog ends now, nearly midway through November!

October was a true turning point month, goals I have been working towards for a while came together and opportunities flowed one after another. It was a fab month I thoroughly enjoyed being busy. Half term was filled with writing events and I also managed (or was possibly forced by exhaustion) a couple of days off. Think I have had about a week so far this year because I love what I do – it doesn’t feel like work. blogging

I started reviewing my writing life in weekly chunks as it was becoming too much to blog in real time about my schedule.

OCTOBER highlights include;

National Poetry Day – I loved finding out how other people had marked this special day, some of the things people got up to were incredible.

I hosted the opening event of Arts All Over the Place – Poetry, Performance and Everything Else as the Poetry Princess, followed by a writing workshop with Jan Watts and Cathy Crossley, next I  performed at Roy McFarlane’s Soulful Poetry Event – all part of the AAOTP Festival. Then I hotfooted to the library in Birmingham to watch the new Poet Laureate being announced. Adrian Blackledge became the new Birmingham Poet Laureate for 2014-2015

This day also marked ONE YEAR since returning to the OPEN MIC circuit!

RELATED LINKS:

National Poetry Day

PP PPEEAAOTP_3Roy Mcfarlenme

BLFestbirm poet laureate 2014nat1nat 1

Literature Festivals including Birmingham Literature Festival, Poetry, Performance & Everything Else Festival and Book to the Future Festival.

I went to see the recording of Radio 4 Poetry Please with Roger McGough, followed by With Great Pleasure, also recorded for BBC Radio 4. Rich McMahon was playing guitar and singing in the foyer  before the evening show at the Rep Theatre of Tell Me on a Sunday, which was a storytelling event set up by Writing West Midlands and Cat Weatherill to share real life stories. Marking the end of 3 years on this project she had selected some of the top stories and tellers to perform and treated us a little to her own stories in between.

I then returned to the festival the following weekend to perform my own commissioned poetry about Urban Nature for Naked Lungs.

A spoken-word exploration of the intersection of urban and natural.

Our lives in the city are played out amongst the products of human endeavour, the frantic pace of the metropolis tending to obscure our innate intimacy with the natural environment. Yet nestled within the concrete and mirrors are jungles brimming with other lives. Birmingham has recently been declared a Biophillic city and is praised for its biodiversity. How does the city structure our experiences of the non-human? Is it valuable that we facilitate such experiences? A group of writers will be producing and performing work dealing with these questions.

It felt amazing to be part of the festival just one year after discovering it! My first commissioned performance project, I hope there are more opportunities in the future.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/birmingham-literature-festival-naked-lungs-urban-nature/

BLF With Great PleasureBLF Rich McMahonBLF Tell me on a sundayNAKED_LUNGS_200x200px

Full Story

I performed a set for Phenomenal Women organised by Jan Watts for the Book to the Future Festival at Birmingham University and Arts All Over the Place celebrated the end of the PPAEE Festival with a huge party, I was delighted to perform an amusing set for the them and have Swingerella share the stage with me.

book-to-the-future-2014Mad hatterme and swing 1

SpeakEasy also celebrated the 1st Anniversary, I was happy when they asked me to perform a set at this special event. More

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I also completed my biggest poetry project to date and organised INKSPILL for the 2nd Year – an online writing retreat hosted right here on this blog. There is a pinned post on the front page of this blog (homepage) with links to the main articles from our INKSPILL weekend, go check it out. This year I was joined by Writer William Gallagher and Poets Charlie Jordan and Heather Wastie who wrote and filmed some wonderful guest posts full of knowledge, advice and experience.

My brother’s Wedding at the beginning of the month was a non-writing highlight. I read a poem by Roy Croft during the service to the tear stained faces of the bride and groom – toughest of audiences. It was a truly magical day!

That is a lot of highlights for just over 4 weeks!

 

Blogs & Projects

I continue with 52, although I am behind in week 40 something. I regret not being able to take full advantage of the community of this group, my own writing schedule has taken off this year and I am busy working when I am not writing and some weeks cannot find the time I promised to carve out for 52. We are all getting reflective as the year draws to a close.

Naked Lungs – My 1st commission – 2 other poets and myself performed at Birmingham Literature Festival in a piece called Urban Nature, it was an amazing experience.

Hanbury Hall Art Exhibition – an opportunity through the Poetry Society Stanza group to write poetry inspired by art in the gallery. I enjoyed the exhibition and still need time to create, write and edit my submission.

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INKSPILL – kept me busy over the last week of October, writing and researching articles, communicating with Guest writers and organising the schedule of events. It was great fun and lots of people have accessed the posts.

 

Submission

I completed a poetry project and missed lots of end of month submissions.

Wrote poetry for my commissioned performance and received rejection from publications I submitted to over the summer.

 

Performing Poetry (which I attempted to cut back on to maximise writing time)

Events I performed at include;

Mouth & Music, Kidderminster, hosted by Heather Wastie, headlined by Jasmine Gardosi. Where I first performed my Halloween Set – to the theme of Ghosts and Ancestors, including two new poems written especially for the event.

Oct me saffron tomsmemouth-music-poster-oct14

 

worcs speakSpeakEasy, Worcester Hosted by Fergus McGonigal – Worcester Poet Laureate, headlined by Antony Owen and Spoz, I was lucky enough to be asked to perform and was delighted as this was the 1st Anniversary Special! There was CAKE!

 

Poetry For Lunch, The Library of Birmingham, hosted by Jan Watts.pfl me choosing poemspfl oct

Restless Bones Birmingham Promo with Born Free Film at The Ort. restless the bookborn free

42 Halloween Special

Mostly Halloween at the Ort – a 10 minute set.

 

Word Up, in Halloween Fancy Dress Birmingham, hosted by Ddotti Bluebell – a night of amazing poetry. Headlined by Daisy Edwards & Swingerella.

hallo1hallo2hallo3

 

Workshops & Events

Writing Workshop David Calcutt Community  Garden Walsall, WILD FIRE

Poetry Workshop Angela France in Stratford-Upon-Avon

AAOTP Award Evening – where I received a HERO AWARD for stepping in last minute to open the festival.

Alan Durham’s Hen Race Book Launch

 

Meetings and Projects

We had the annual meeting of writers with Writing West Midlands.

My 1 to 1 Mentoring Role for WWM was made official and planning started for these sessions.

I also managed to get to Stanza this month again, hosted by Sarah Kemp. stanza scrabble

 

Birmingham Literature Festival – Naked Lungs Urban Nature

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BLFest This year a call out for poets was announced by Naked Lungs (Joe Whitehouse & Christopher Baker) for a collaborative project and performance at Birmingham Literature Festival.

80 people applied to the initial advert and although Naked Lungs didn’t interview all applicants, it still feels special to be picked as one of the four poets. The brief was intentionally loose to give artists room to interpret and play, we met up and visited the Community Garden in Digbeth for some extra inspiration and to spend some time together.

I really enjoyed meeting new poets, Hannah Graham is a local poet performer and Amanda Hemmings works with young people writing at the MAC, Aysha Begum, is a poet I already knew, we have performed at the same events and I have enjoyed some of her projects, like Bridge the Gap. She recently won the Oxjam Slam in Birmingham.

The whole project was individuals working privately on the commission and then coming together to unite our words and ideas. I really liked the fact that we wrote in the dark and then discovered the elements of synchronicity.

Unfortunately due to demonstrations *that I am not going to give promotion to*, one of our performers was prevented from arriving safely at the library. This situation was fully understood by all of us and I think if it had been any of us in that position we would have done the same. But at one point we were potentially half the cast down Hannah and I thought we might have to fill the whole half hour together. A daunting prospect!

This would have been a challenge on timing alone. We had been asked to write for 7-8 minutes worth of material, due to differences in the way we all work and the poetry we produce, not every artist fulfilled the timings brief. This meant that we were already short of the specified performance slot.

Everyone wrote amazing poems and performed them brilliantly. We all work differently and I am sure everyone put their all into the work for this performance, certainly in the time spent learning their poems, which is something I didn’t have time to do – as they were only completed 4 days before the performance and I had 2 days of work and 2 events in that time.

We needn’t have panicked though as the extra time allowed us to introduce the project and the poems and contextualise some of our material. It was a worry but needn’t have been, we were just a few minutes short of the 30 and no-one seemed to mind.

It was a great project to be involved with and great fun performing in the foyer of the Library of Birmingham. We had quite a good crowd of people watching, along with our own supporters and everyone did really well. I still can’t believe that Amanda hadn’t performed for a year, what a brave way to get back into performing! Hannah Graham is amazingly talented and I look forward to watching her in the future.

I will continue to seek out future opportunities as amazing as this one.

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2nd Week of October – A Birthday Event, An End of Festival Party and Performing at BLF

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I spent the beginning of the week with 2.5 writing days, I was working on the Naked Lungs commission as well as an on-going project for October. I am enjoying filling my new poetry book with poems.

WLF&F logo concepts On Thursday SpeakEasy celebrated its 1st anniversary/birthday, with cake, poetry and TWO Headline acts, Antony Owen and Spoz. I was delighted to perform at this special event too and took 3 new poems with me, including one I wrote especially for the SpeakEasy team, which went down well. It was an epic evening! Speakeasy OCT

 

Lots of talented poets took to the mic including; Heidi Murphy, Charley Barnes, Leena Bachelor, Mike Alma, Polly Robinson (who also did a special Birthday poem), Heather Wastie, Michelle Crosbie, John Lawrence, myself and Mogs. As well as 4 open mic-ers, there were some open mic-ers who hadn’t been before, both good poets who I am sure we will see again.

the-year-i-loved-england Antony Owen brought some poets from Coventry to read some of the poems from his latest book, ‘The Year I Loved England’ – it was a great set. I bought the book at his launch in Coventry earlier this year, but nothing beats watching him reading his own poetry. © 2014 Antony Owens

Spoz, as always was thoroughly entertaining, he did his Jeremy Clarkson poem which I love and also treated us to a special effects housefly poem from his book of kids poems. BL spoz RH

I left on a real high.

On Friday I went to Digbeth to celebrate the end of the Poetry, Performance (and Everything Else!) Festival, with the cosmic chill out party. It was a brilliant party upstairs in a pub, there was a proper stage and sound system/board and technician, like real bands get! I had to follow Swingerella and Kate Bush! Who were both brilliant and massive crowd pleasers with their entertaining acts. I was worried approaching the stage with just my book of poems – thank goodness I had planned to perform the Moustache Poem! It was the toughest crowd I have had – thank goodness for stage lights – I couldn’t see the audience – I could hear them all talking though!

The end of the festival landed on World Mental Health Day, which is the main reason for the festival – raising awareness and fighting against the stigma of Mental Health. I had rehearsed a set which included some poems about my own experience. I decided during Swingerella’s act not to perform these. I had 3 funny poems, but still they talked.

Half way through the ‘Adjective’ poem I felt the audience with me – as there was movement on the stage as well as funny words. They wanted props and SHOW and I am so glad I packed my moustaches! I won them round on this final poem – especially as I needed a volunteer to hold the mic – there was audience participation and Swingerella and I bantering back and forth when she came up to the stage to help with the props!

It felt great! It also gave birth to the idea that I may collaborate with Swingerella in the future.

Mad hatter

On Saturday I had to get my Writing Job covered and it was the first day of my new mentoring role as I was at the Library of Birmingham for the Birmingham Literature Festival performing a collaboration for Naked Lungs.

Last year I went to the festival and spent most of my days there, I had just re-embarked on a life as a poet. This year, I was not able to make much of the festival, but I was performing in it.

This was a busy weekend for poetry events and I missed a Slam at Malvern Cube, the 20th Anniversary/Leaving party of the Cheltenham Slam and Ledbury Poetry in the Orchard.

I have written a separate post about Saturday Birmingham Literature Festival

One Week in October – Poetry Festivals, Events, Weddings and a Commission.

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Reviewing October weekly as my writing life is tightly scheduled this month. What an exciting first week it has been. I have really tried to cut down on the amount of events I go to as I need to TIE myself to my desk/ laptop and get writing this October.

 

Opening A Festival

The month started with a surprise phone call from Rachel Green, programme director – Arts All Over the Place – Poetry, Performance (and Everything Else) Festival. Long story, short I sent proposals in September, what I could offer the festival and a bio in just 50 words. A glitch meant that when I contact Rachel, weeks later, the programme had already been devised. She did offer a drama workshop that I could have facilitated, typically it was the one day I was booked for work. I had to turn the opportunity down. AAOTP_3

A few days later she called to ask if I could OPEN THE FESTIVAL – the OPENING EVENT! As with all good drama graduates we are taught to accept the job and worry about the fine print later. This is how I found myself on National Poetry Day dressed as the Poetry Princess and treating an audience to a one-woman show! Still grateful to be saved by the buffet. People enjoyed my crystal delivery and poetry and I was caught in conversation with several attendees about poetry throughout the course of the day. Of course I stuck around for Cathy Crossley and Jan Watts and their National Poetry Day workshop, which resulted in pages of notes for potential poetry.

Later I performed as part of Soulful Poetry event organised and hosted by former Birmingham Laureate, Rob McFarlane. It was great to talk to Roy after the event as well as hearing more of his poetry. He was extremely supportive of my poetry and performance.

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Birmingham Poet Laureate

After this I hot footed to the Library of Birmingham to support Jasmine Gardosi & Matt Man Windle with their bid to be the next Poet Laureate. I am glad I managed to catch all the performances.  birm poet laureate 2014 Adrian Blackledge became the new Birmingham Poet Laureate for 2014-2015 and my alliances and friendships with Matt and Jasmine remain intact. In his speech Adrian made a point – that more people write poetry than read poetry… and that maybe something needs to be done about it. I wanted to spend more time in the library but it had been a long day and I had to be up for work.

 

WEDDING

This weekend saw my younger brother getting married – the first wedding in our immediate family. A big occasion and a brilliant wedding that I think only Dave and Jenny could have pulled off. I read ‘I Love You’ by Roy Croft in their service, lots of tissues were needed. My brother and his wife, crying on each new line, my toughest and most intimate audience yet.

I was worried about coughing as well as crying, I am suffering a lingering chest infection. On my second lot of antibiotics and praying these work. It has been extremely challenging teaching, performing and watching events with this loud, hacking cough constantly interrupting!

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Birmingham Literature Festival

All photographs  Birmingham Literature Festival © 2014

On Sunday (fortunately hang over free) I went to see my relatives who had stayed with Mum and then went to Birmingham Literature Festival, I wanted to pack as much in as I knew my schedule wouldn’t allow another day there, until Saturday 11th, when I perform.

BLF With Great Pleasure

I went to see the recording of Radio 4 Poetry Please with Roger McGough, followed by With Great Pleasure, also recorded for BBC Radio 4. Rich McMahon was playing guitar and singing in the foyer BLF Rich McMahon before the evening show at the Rep Theatre of Tell Me on a Sunday, which was a storytelling event set up by Writing West Midlands and Cat Weatherill to share real life stories. Marking the end of 3 years on this project she had selected some of the top stories and tellers to perform and treated us a little to her own stories in between.

BLF Tell me on a sunday

In honesty after the wedding I should have spent the day asleep, I know I would have regretted not making the effort to go to the festival though. I also bumped into an old friend Nicola who I hadn’t seen for years. Funny last time she was working creative/ language jobs and I was teaching full time – now she teaches full time and I am getting creative with job roles.

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Writing

Monday and Tuesday were spent writing poetry for the Urban Nature Performance/ Commission – which takes place at The Library of Birmingham next Saturday as well as catching up on some neglected household chores, doctors appointments and going to work. NAKED_LUNGS_200x200px

Performing

I have a writing day today and another project to sink my wrists into – I also have a fair few events lined up;

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Thursday 9th Performing at Anniversary SpeakEasy, Friday attending and performing at the Mad Hatter’s Cosmic Chill Out for the end of Arts All Over the Place Festival, Saturday THE BIG DAY performing in the Birmingham Literature Festival, then having a performing break until next Tuesday. And that’s with reducing the performance schedule!

 

Happy NATIONAL POETRY DAY!

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Nothing beats the excitement of penning (typing) a blog post whilst still high on adrenaline from the day’s events!

I know I said I would reduce blogging to weekly round ups this October until INKSPILL – Our FREE ONLINE writing retreat, but today is National Poetry Day and what kind of ambassador for poetry would I be if I let that one slip without posting?

Writing diary My gorgeous poetry diary.

What a crazy day…. I woke up to my 9:30 alarm (needed an ill me lie in) then fell asleep and promptly woke myself up with phone-in-the-face… good job too as I had left myself just short of a couple of hours to prepare for my first event.

As always (there is an organised woman in me trying desperately to get out), I planned to pack a bag and sort my costume before I went to bed. My chest infection resulted in an earlier evening than planned and me visualising costume possibilities instead of counting sheep. To be fair I had plenty of time this morning and was ready and out the door on time, my delay came when I hit Digbeth at lunch time and found all car parks full, all road spaces in use and many drivers who decided not to give way when the highway code would advise it… a couple of car sandwiches later I just pulled into The Bond and hoped.

Parked right outside the venue but in my post-nearly-had-my-car-written-off flap, discovered I hadn’t actually listened and headed back to reception.

I wasn’t late as I had planned to be over an hour early – I wasn’t over an hour though and poor Dan, who only met me today was greeted by a slightly deranged, manic lady talking about poetry and parking. He recognised the signs and I got costume ready and into character before sorting out the details of the OPENING EVENT – the buffet arrived, I think the caterer had probably struggled through tight lane traffic too, she presumed I was Rachel (Rachel Green – Programme director), I pointed Dan out to her and went on preparing a set of poems.

 

THE OPENING EVENT – ‘Meets, Greets, Eats and Poetry Beats’

I had originally decided to just do two, poignant to the event – but I was glad I reserved more because I ended up doing the whole show! One of the poet’s was there but in another venue, the wrong place, the other poets were on the Poetry Trail, which was the first event on the programme today – so it was just me – the ‘Poetry Princess’, the programme of events and my poetry book!

Feedback was all positive – people wouldn’t have known any different – my acting skills covering more than the cloaked character on stage! The buffet was a beautiful vegetarian feast and the pasta bake was delicious.

If I am free on a Thursday I can be found at the Library doing Poetry For Lunch – but today the offer of hosting the opening event for Poetry, Performance and Everything Else Festival was too tempting. As it was National Poetry Day Jan Watt’s Poetry for Lunch was on for a whole hour (it is usually a half hour extraganza) – she had a good turn out, it meant Jan and Andrea missed out on the delight that was the Poetry Princess and her extended B side Performance, because rather than introducing acts she had to perform the whole event. I think they would have approved.

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We then had Cathy Crossley and Jan Watts take us through a National Poetry Day themed workshop on remembrance – remembering. Including lots of musical stimuli – I thoroughly enjoyed it and the group were great – everyone sharing their work and loads of strong ideas and images being written down, talked about and shared.

I ended up with 2 pages of notes (I think Andrea has a photo of them), and a poem or the basis of a poem which I was fairly pleased with.

It was relaxed and I love the venue they have at The Bond for the festival – all the workshops take place in one big space, there was a clay workshop at the same time – some impressive Mad Hatter hats displayed on the table at the end of it.

ROY MCFARLANE (Poet Laureate) Soulful Poetry Event.

I have only caught a handful of Roy’s performances in this 1st year of poeting. It was great to see him up on stage, energy, positivity and heart wrenching/ warming poetry exudes from him. I met him officially, properly to talk to at Jacqui Rowe’s Poetry Bites, last Tuesday. He had to go before my set. Today was the first time he has EVER heard me, due to the nature of the festival and the event and knowing Andrea’s poetry was about her experiences I read my ‘Stone’ poem.

me It has been 10 years in my head, written about going back to where my life took a sharp turn downhill, I was visiting a nearby town to take part in a poetry event, this poem is as yet unedited and runs to 4 minutes, about double the time I usually take to perform. I had never performed it before. I shared other poems too and Roy gave me a great confidence boost at the end after discovering my voice.

Roy Mcfarlen

6 pm

Hotwheeling (not literally) over to the Library of Birmingham, for the first day at Birmingham Literature Festival and the announcement of the new Poet Laureate. I also wanted to support 2 of my poetry friends in the final; Jasmine Gardosi and Matt Man Windle.

Library

It was a great way to end the evening, watching the performances and seeing former poet Joanna Skelt read again. libraryofbirminghamdotcom joanna skeltbirm poet laureate 2014

Afterwards I spent some time chatting to people from Writing West Midlands. I picked up tickets from the Box Office for all the Birmingham Lit Fest events I can make. Last year (this was my first EVER Lit Festival) apart from a day at Hays, I practically lived in the city for the fortnight (10 days) this time I cannot attend so much. However, I am performing in the festival instead, on the 11th with Naked Lungs and the commissioned Urbanature project/ performance. So that trumps going to the library everyday and at least this way I still have time to work on my writing.

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In fact the only poetry between now and Sunday afternoon will be material written tonight and tomorrow afternoon, the Roy Croft poem, I am reading at my brother’s wedding and maybe a bit of bedtime reading. Sunday I am back in Birmingham for Roger McGough at the Literature Festival.

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I have had such a great day! I am also enjoying what other people have done to celebrate National Poetry Day, I may have to produce some sort of montage of information, maybe as part of the weekly round up! nat 1

It was also this time last year, to the day that I had my 1st performance experience with the mic and poetry going public. Julie Boden’s Night in Leamington Spa. nat1

 

October – A Month of Writing

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This month I have writing to do I am editing and writing some new poetry, I also have to write my first commission for a performance on the 11th at Birmingham Literature Festival, there is also another project in the pipeline involving displayed poetry.

Tomorrow I am hosting/ opening the Poetry, Performance and Everything Else Festival for Arts All Over the Place as well as taking part in some workshops, performing at Roy McFarlane’s Soulful Poetry Event and then hot footing to the Library of Birmingham for the announcement of the new Poet Laureate, both Matt Man Windle and Jasmine Gardosi are in this year’s finals!

Friday I am working and resting, relatives will be up for my brother’s wedding, this Saturday.

Saturday is obviously the wedding – I am reading a love poem and have been practising it without crying. On Sunday I am back at Library – Birmingham Literature Festival – Poetry Please and Tell me on a Sunday Events to watch.

I am cutting back on Poetry Events due to the time needed for writing this month and will blog weekly.

I am also hosting INKSPILL at the end of this month – right here on this blog! A FREE online writing retreat.